A Comprehensive Review of
It Wasn’t About Slavery, Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War by Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr.
Part Four of Ten
The Nullification Crisis
by Gene Kizer, Jr.
I am extending this series to ten. Mitcham’s book is important enough for this comprehensive treatment because it covers all the important issues of the antebellum era and War Between the States from start to finish, and, as I have said many times, Mitcham cuts right to the chase. He explains everything well and does not waste your time.
Everybody should read this chapter through. It will give you a solid understanding of the antebellum era, nullification, and what they meant for the future.
At the end of this article, beneath the notes I have cited, is “Actual Citation from Book,” Mitcham’s endnotes for Chapter V.
The epigraphs for this chapter are perfect, especially the one from the Charleston Mercury:
South Carolina will preserve its sovereignty or be buried beneath it. —Senator Robert Young Hayne, 1832
The real causes of dissatisfaction in the South with the North, are in the unjust taxation and expenditure of taxes . . . and in the revolution the North has effected in this government, from a confederated republic, to a national sectional despotism.—Charleston Mercury editorial, November 8, 1860.
[Publisher’s Note, by Gene Kizer, Jr. : The above excerpt from the Charleston Mercury is the primary reason for the War Between the States. It is ignored by many “historians,” academia and the news media, because they are not only ignorant of Southern history, a large number of them are corrupt. This is unquestionably due to the politicization of history that began in the 1960s.
What comes out of academia today is not because of good scholarship and open, honest debate, but instead is the price professors have to pay to keep the mob away from their office. They know what they have to say and teach so they won’t be branded a racist and lose their pensions.
The politicized news media is beyond corrupt. Most of its purpose is not truth but to keep 30% of the country voting democrat and hating the rest of the country.
As esteemed historian Eugene Genovese said 25 years ago, academic and media elites have turned Southern history into a “political and cultural atrocity,” but truth is still readily available. It’s in the outstanding scholarship of independent historians and publishers, and in places like this book of Dr. Mitcham’s, not to mention all the excellent history written in the past when the standard was good argument and thorough documentation, unlike the woke politicized history of today that inspires nobody.]
MITCHAM STARTS CHAPTER V by pointing out that “The question of who could interpret constitutional issues was not addressed in the Constitution.”
The judiciary moved quickly to take over that power but “Some of the Founders soon realized that, if this continued, the only restraint on the federal government would be the federal government itself, an oxymoron.” In those days it was states that got to decide, under the Tenth Amendment, if something was constitutional or not.1 Frankly, that’s how it ought to be today. We’d have a lot more freedom if it was.
Nullifying tyrannical laws goes back to the Colonies: “The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765, but the North American colonies considered it an illegal tax and resorted to mob violence to resist it.” The tax collectors quit, which nullified the act and led to Parliament repealing it in 1766.
But the British wanted their colonies to be tributary to the empire’s wealth and power just like the North did in the antebellum days as South Carolina noted in its secession documents.
The British followed the Stamp Act
with other attempts at taxation, including the Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, and the Quartering Act. Taken together, these are called the Coercive Acts or the Intolerable Acts. Massachusetts led the way in resisting and trying to nullify them, resulting in the Boston Tea Party, the Suffolk Resolves, and the forming of the First Continental Congress. But did the states still have the right to do so after they joined the United States? This question would need an answer.2
It is fascinating to see how early legal cases reflected and formed political thought in our country. It always comes down to those who want a strong centralized all-powerful federal government, and those who don’t.
The main issue in American history since the Revolution has been federal versus state power starting with the more populous North — the Federals in the War Between the States — desiring to control the federal government with its larger population so it could pass legislation favorable to itself. The Founding Fathers called this the “tyranny of the majority.”
Mitcham points out that in 1792, Alexander Chisholm sued the State of Georgia on behalf of the estate of Robert Farquhar, for payment for goods delivered during the Revolution.
The case was tried in the Supreme Court but the Georgia lawyers refused to appear stating that Georgia was a sovereign state that “could not be sued without its permission.”
Chisholm won, giving a “significant victory to centralized government because a branch of the federal government had placed itself above a sovereign state.”
But that quickly led to “the Eleventh Amendment, which restored the states’ sovereign immunity.”3
The next battle “centered around the Alien and Sedition Acts” but they were declared null by the Democrat-Republicans who issued the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, so “this crisis ended without a clear resolution.”4
Jefferson won the presidency in 1800 but on his way out the door, John Adams “tried to pack the federal courts with sixteen Federalist judges, who would have lifetime appointments to the recently created seats on the bench (the Judiciary Act of 1801).”
Jefferson’s inaugural address was a thing of toleration, art, and beauty. New England was once again threatening to leave the Union because it had lost the election. Jefferson invited it to do so. ‘If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve the Union,’ he said, ‘or to change it republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.’5
The ‘Midnight Judges Act’ did not stand because Jefferson and supporters in Congress repealed it and “Jefferson swept the lower court benches clear” except for Adams’ chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, Jefferson’s cousin. Marshall later “cleverly inserted the principle of judicial review into the decision on the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison (1803).”
Jefferson fought it by trying to impeach an “arrogant and obnoxious Federalist Supreme Court judge” but lost when the Supreme Court decided arrogance and obnoxiousness did not rise to the required “high crimes and misdemeanors” required, so Marshall and the Supreme Court “was thus able to create for itself the right of judicial review, even though it was not in the Constitution.”6
The issue was not settled because states could still review constitutional cases.
With regard to slavery, in the “early 1830s, the South inched toward emancipation.” Mitcham points out that
there were more anti-slavery societies in the South than the North. The 106 Southern anti-slavery societies had 5,150 members. The twenty-four anti-slavery organizations in the North had 1,475 members.7
Virginia almost voted for emancipation in 1832. It lost 65-58 and the only reason was the emancipationists could not agree on the details. A resolution “that admitted slavery was evil” did pass 73 to 58.
Emancipationists believed it would pass in the future but then virtue-signaling
Northern abolitionists ‘began their theatrical antics demanding immediate, uncompensated emancipation, backed by threats of terror and Northern secession.’ The Southerners did not like people coming down and telling them how to live. As a result, the slavery issue became sectional. By 1850, there were zero anti-slave societies in the South.8
Meanwhile sectionalism grew. It was the one thing George Washington warned about. He said parties should always be national and not sectional. The moment they become sectional, Washington warned that the country was in trouble.
In 1833, 27 years before South Carolina seceded, “America teetered on the brink of civil war” over tariffs, nullification and states’ rights.
The Denmark Vesey plot had been discovered. Vesey “a free black minister in Charleston and one of the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), was angry because he had been unable to buy his first wife and children out of slavery.” The plot was discovered and Vesey and around 35 others were hanged and others deported.
The South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Seaman Act “which required the confinement of all foreign black sailors to their ships while they were docked in South Carolina ports. If a black sailor disobeyed the law and came ashore, he faced arrest and the prospect of enslavement.”9 Other Southern states “which also feared servile insurrection—quickly replicated South Carolina’s actions. The entire matter soon ended up in court.”10
The Negro Seaman Act was declared unconstitutional because it “violated U.S. treaties with the United Kingdom” but that didn’t matter to the South Carolina Senate which nullified the ruling and President James Monroe did nothing about it.
Late in his life Jefferson “recommended that Virginia reassert her sovereignty and nullify federal internal improvement legislation, which he considered unconstitutional.” He died in 1826 but before that wrote about slavery “we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.”11
Two years later, in 1828, the Tariff of Abominations was passed 105 to 94 in the House, and 26 to 21 in the Senate. Southerners voted against it 50 to 3. It raised rates dramatically to around 47 percent on most items, and 51 percent on “implements with iron in them.”
Mitcham points out:
The Constitution allowed a tariff for revenue purposes. For those who interpreted the document strictly, this did not mean that it authorized a tariff to protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competition or to favor one section of the country over another. The South solidly opposed protective tariffs, correctly envisioning that restraints on free trade would mean economic exploitation of an exporting region like the Cotton States.12
This use of the federal government to enrich Northerners through tariffs, bounties, subsidies and monopoly status for Northern businesses is why Southerners in the Confederate Constitution forbid protective tariffs. It was not fair to favor one section of the country over another, especially when it cost that other section more in taxes. Even more outrageously, 80% of the tax money was being spent in the North.
No wonder Southerners seceded. Everybody knows that money drives everything. Nobody sends their precious sons off to die because they don’t like the domestic institutions in other countries. We aren’t at war today though there is more slavery on the planet than at any other time in human history as Mitcham pointed out early in his book.
Slavery as the cause of the American War Between the States is one of the biggest absurdities in all of history. It is the one thing you can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt: that the North did not go to war to free the slaves or end slavery.
Yankees care about money. Black lives did not matter much to them. That’s why so many Northern states forbid blacks from living there or even visiting including Lincoln’s Illinois.
The Confederate tariff was less than 10% for the operation of a small federal government in a states rights nation. The Yankee tariff, the Morrill Tariff, was 47 to 60%. That’s one reason Northern ship captains were beating a path to the South where they could get cargoes.
The Morrill Tariff threatened to destroy the Northern shipping industry overnight, which was the one-two punch that caused Lincoln to start the war. Northerners had already lost much of their manufacturing industry because they manufactured mostly for the captive Southern market, but Southerners did not want overpriced inferior Northern goods. They wanted free trade and had always wanted free trade. They wanted to manufacture for themselves and buy from England and other places.
Lincoln could see the death of the North on the wall, or severe economic damage at the very least. A free trade South with 100% control of the most demanded commodity on the planet — cotton — would bury the North in short order. Lincoln needed to fight right when he did, which is why he started the war. Every day that went by, the South got stronger and the North got weaker.
The South with European trade and military agreements would be unbeatable in a war, and Lincoln and Northern leaders knew it.
That’s why we had the War Between the States. Certainly not for any mythological freeing of the slaves by the North, or protecting slavery by the South.
Slavery was a way to get the cotton picked. Technology and the invention of machines to pick cotton would have ended slavery by the 1880s. Southerners would much rather do like Yankees and hire when they needed to, and fire when they needed to, without a birth to death commitment. Lincoln didn’t need to kill 750,000 people and maim over a million, but then his party would have disappeared from history and there would be no Lincoln Memorial.
Lincoln was a sectional president, president of the North. When he went to war, it was to protect and enrich the North. He did not care an iota about the rest of the country. That’s why it was always “Union” for Lincoln, because that’s where Yankee power and money were. And the Union would be controlled by the Northern majority.
Mitcham points out that the Tariff of 1828 caused John Quincy Adams to lose the presidential election to “hot-tempered, intolerant military man and slaveholder” Andrew Jackson. Jackson believed the high tariff should stay in place “until the national debt was paid off.”
Mitcham makes a critically important point about that debt:
(Most of the debt was caused by over expenditures on internal improvements in the North. “Internal improvements” in today’s terms means government subsidies to private industry, corporate welfare and crony capitalism, and catering to special interest groups. In the nineteenth century, they were characterized by corruption and enthusiastically supported by Abraham Lincoln and other Northern Whigs.) Despite his sympathy for the South, Jackson would not sanction nullification or secession.13
Here is why this book of Mitcham’s is so outstanding. He talks about the tariff debate in the Senate which began December 29, 1829 between mainly Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and allies, and Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina and allies. Mitcham writes:
According to establishment historical mythology, the intellectually outstanding Webster, using his vastly superior debating skills, isolated the South, discredited states’ rights, nullification, secession, and strict constructionism, and affirmed the principles of implied powers, strong central government, federal supremacy, and an indivisible, perpetual Union—– all by himself and in only a couple of speeches.14
However, this myth was “convincingly shattered” in 2016 by H. A. Scott Trask: “Trask examined the documents and newspapers of that time, which give an entirely different picture. At least as many people believed Hayne had defeated Webster.”15
Mitcham gives an exciting account of the back-and-forth of Webster and Hayne. The debate begins with Connecticut Senator Samuel A. Foot’s resolution about whether it was “desirable to limit the sale of public lands indefinitely and to stop the survey of new areas.”
A Hayne ally, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri,
rose and denounced the proposal as just another attempt by New England to stop immigration to the western states. Their hidden aim, he declared, was to keep people in the East to work in their factories. On January 18, 1830, he spoke again and charged that the business classes of the East were trying to enrich themselves by taxing the South, injuring the West, and pauperizing the poor of the North.16
The debate went on for months with Webster, like New England liberal democrats today, adamantly defending the federal government and its growth. Webster “attacked the South and its institutions, and declared that Southerners were hurting the country by opposing the growing power of the central government.”
Benton “correctly accused Webster of trying to isolate the South and form an alliance between the North and West, creating a coalition like the one that led to the election of Adams in 1824” and he added that “New England had threatened to secede on more than one occasion and that the region’s attitude toward the Union was one of calculated indifference.”17
Hayne spoke again on January 21, attacking the New England faction as motivated by base self-interest and defending his state’s right to sovereignty and nullification. He quoted Jefferson’s contention that the national government was not the ‘exclusive or final judge of the extent of its own powers.’ (Like Marshall, Webster believed the Supreme Court was the exclusive evaluator of constitutional disputes.)18
As the debate about the Tariff of 1828 continued, the South Carolina legislature declared it unconstitutional.
Behind the scenes, Vice President John C. Calhoun secretly wrote The South Carolina Exposition and Protest, which advanced the idea of nullification vis-a-vis the tariff. He asserted that the Tariff of 1828 was unconstitutional because it favored manufacturing over commerce and agriculture. In Exposition and Protest, Calhoun held that state conventions (which had originally ratified the Constitution) could nullify any law they considered unconstitutional. The nullification could only be overridden by a three-fourths vote of all the states.19
Jackson was uncompromising, “He demanded immediate and unconditional obedience.”
South Carolina refused “for constitutional and economic reasons.” Since the “Panic of 1819, and, due to Western migration, its population had dropped from 580,000 to just under 500,000 in the 1820s.” South Carolina just could not afford it.
South Carolina congressman and Calhoun supporter, George McDuffie, “expounded the Forty Bale Theory. The theory declared that the 40 percent tax on finished cotton goods in the Tariff of 1816 meant that ‘the manufacturer actually invades your barns and plunders you of forty out of every hundred bales that you produce.'”
McDuffie’s message was effective and “opened the eyes of many South Carolinians. It made converts to the idea of nullification and stoked the fires of many who already felt the federal government was taking advantage of them.”20
In this tense atmosphere, “President Jackson arranged an elaborate dinner at the India Queen Hotel on April 13, 1830, to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.” Everybody was there.
Hayne spoke that evening and “denounced the tariff but avoided any mention of nullification.” During the toasts, there were many anti-tariff messages so much so that the entire Pennslyvania delegation left. Tensions were high.
Jackson rose and looked straight at Calhoun and said with vigor, “Our Union, it must be preserved.”
The entire room went silent. It could not have been more dramatic had Jackson ordered federal officers to arrest Calhoun on the spot. The vice president was scheduled to give the next toast. He arose, looked directly at Jackson, and in a firm voice said: ‘The Union, next to our liberty, most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the states and by distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union.’21
Northerners began realizing the Tariff of Abominations was too much. Thinking the Tariff of 1832 would adjust the rates satisfactorily, South Carolina did not take action:
The Tariff of 1832 did indeed lower the rates but not enough. The average tariff for dutiable good was 33 percent. Thanks to the tariffs, about 90 percent of which were paid by Southerners, the United States now had a budget surplus, but the Northerners drafted a bill that kept the tariffs high and protected the manufacturer’s profit margins at the expense of the South. Many Southerners felt hoodwinked. Much of the rest of Dixie wanted a better compromise, but South Carolina was ready to act. Governor James Hamilton conducted pro-nullification, anti-tariff rallies throughout the state. As a result, the nullification forces won the state election of 1832 by a large majority.22
The next events were exciting and important in American history. South Carolina governor James Hamilton “called for a special session to authorize a nullification convention. The legislature concurred, and the convention met on November 24. It chose Senator Hayne presiding officer and quickly declared the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 unconstitutional and nullified them. State and federal officials were forbidden from collecting tariffs within the state after February 1, 1833. The leadership vowed to secede if the United States government tried coercion.”23
Jackson in private threatened to invade South Carolina and hang Calhoun. Jackson in public stated “he would use force to prevent nullification.”
In the next few weeks, Hamilton’s term as governor ended and Hayne was picked governor by the legislature which chose governors and senators in those days. Calhoun’s relationship with Jackson was destroyed so he resigned as vice president and was picked to be a senator, replacing Hayne.
On January 16, 1833 Jackson “requested Congress pass the Force Bill authorizing military intervention in South Carolina.”
South Carolina “mobilized 27,000 men.”
Realizing bloodshed was about to occur and nobody really wanted war, a compromise was worked out by Clay and Calhoun rolling back “the tariffs over a nine-year period until 1842, when it reached the levels of the 1816 Tariff—about 20 percent.”
In a final “gesture of defiance,” South Carolina nullified the Force Act.